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Andrea Allen

Why I love new plays. For reals.

April 8th, 2011 by Andrea Allen

New plays are almost as good as bacon on ice cream.

I just got back from the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. This festival of new work celebrated its 35th year at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Jerry asked me if I’d like to go, and never having been, I jumped at the chance.

I had an amazing time—not just because it was the first time my husband (set designer Matt Smucker, whose work was last seen at Rep in Three Tall Women) and I have gotten away together since our 3 ½- year-old twin sons came into our lives; not just because there was a fine number of bourbons to choose from; not just because of the sunny 70 degree temps. No, I loved seeing 7 new plays in 2 ½ days. More like 10 plays if you count the 10-minute plays as separate. So, basically, an entire season at the Rep in 3 days. I loved it. For reals.

Add to that experience that neither my husband nor I were directly involved in the making of any of those plays and were therefore able to discuss/dish freely without having to go all defensive on one another, and suddenly I remember how important it is as theatre artists—no, as people—to re-fill the proverbial well. To step into the worlds of other writers, actors, directors and try to glimpse how the heck their minds work. Here are a few of the highlights.

Adam Rapp’s The Edge of Our Bodies—a one-woman show about a 17-year-old girl traveling Metro North from her prep school in Connecticut to see her boyfriend in NYC to tell him she is pregnant. Adam so perfectly captured that young woman’s voice—made her real, not clichéd, and took me back in my own life to being 17 and so sure I was both a woman and a small child at the same time. It reminded me of how I as a teacher connect with teenagers, and yet only glimpse a small slice of the journeys they are on.

Anne Washburn’s A Devil at Noon—alright, I have to say it, I think Anne Washburn is crazy. Good crazy. I first met her doing a new play workshop-thing at Annex Theatre (Hothouse). I didn’t work directly with her, but became aware of her wild perspectives. And this play took me all over San Francisco, the writer’s mind and the moon. I may not have understood the journey, but boy it was fun to go on that rollercoaster with her.

A Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them—capturing the voices of three young people (two 16-year-old boys falling in love, and the younger sister), all living in a world separate from adults, yet ruled by them. It reminded me of Charlie Brown’s parents and their off-stage (or in Charlie’s case, off-frame) voices not quite making sense, not quite paying enough attention as the children try to decipher the world around them. I think the character of Edith, and her over-sized stuffed frog Fergie, will be with me for a long time to come.

Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine—it’s likely to be the next hot thing in theatre. Or that’s how it seemed to me. Funny, interesting, and exploring how constraints in our lives actually bring us closer to one another. A mixed race couple who both work in NYC and have recently had a miscarriage decide to join a community of people who attempt to live as if in 1955. That’s the plot, but it’s the nuances and characters that bring it alive.

Finally, let me just say that Doc Crow’s was a great restaurant. I had cinnamon ice cream with pork rinds and bacon, topped with bourbon sauce that literally made me want to push Matt out of his chair so I could eat it all myself. Sure, it sounds like an abomination, but man, it’s really good.

Andrea Allen is Seattle Rep’s Director of Education.

Playwright/director Adam Rapp is at Seattle Rep RIGHT NOW working on his new play, Welcome Home, Dean Charbonneau. There are three staged (very staged, according to Artistic Director Jerry Manning who just stopped by the give us the scoop) readings happening tonight (June 4), tomorrow, and Sunday in our black box space, the PONCHO.

Playwright/Director Adam Rapp

This is part of our New Play Program, the same program that also brought you Radiance by the one and only Alan Alda back in March.We’re excited about Dean Charbonneau for lots of reasons. Here are a few.

1. Adam just got a write-up in the New York Times.

2. The cast is ridiculously awesome. And it being an intimate workshop performance means you’re THIS close to them. Actors are Eric Ray Anderson, Christopher Bange, Shawn Belyea, Susan Corzatte, Michael Cullen, Christopher Denham, Mari Nelson, Bradford Farwell, Halley Feiffer, Justin Huertas, Gretchen Krich, Todd Licea, and R. Hamilton Wright.

3. The play is mesmerizing. It’s dark, creepy, funny, and heartbreaking about a Wisconsin family sitting down to watch football and plan a party for their son who’s just come back from Iraq. But when the celebration starts, it’s clear he’s not too excited about being back.Tickets are only $15. Give the Box Office a call at 206-443-2222, there are a few seats left. (Tonight and tomorrow shows are at at 7:30, Sunday at 2 p.m.).

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